From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser

For Immediate Release
May 17, 1999
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124

Senate Approves Fraser Bill for Historic Courthouse Restoration

AUSTIN --- The Texas Senate today approved a bill sponsored by Senator Troy Fraser that would authorize the Texas Historical Commission to grant or loan money for the restoration of up to 225 historic courthouses throughout Texas.

The legislation, House Bill 1341, provides the legal basis for state funds to be appropriated by creating a Historical Courthouse Preservation Fund. The actual appropriation level of state funds will be determined by the amount finalized in the state's 2000-2001 budget.

An estimated $50 million in general revenue has been earmarked for the fund by the House-Senate budget conference committee, although the actual appropriation level will not become final until the Legislature adopts the budget later this month. Fraser, R Horseshoe Bay, is a member of the budget conference committee.

"This is a very worthwhile program because it will help Texas counties renovate and showcase hundreds of historic courthouses," Fraser said. "We have more of these wonderful landmarks than any other state. These are more than just old buildings, they are important local symbols of pride and democracy, as well as attractions for heritage tourism."

Under the bill, the Historical Commission would determine criteria for awarding grant funds for the restoration projects, with preferences given to courthouses owned by counties and that actually function as a courthouse.

Courthouse owners would be expected to provide at least 15 percent of the restoration project's cost, and that percentage could include in-kind contributions as well as previous expenditures for master planning and renovations, Fraser said.

The Historical Commission would be authorized to consider other factors in determining whether to grant an application for funding, including the architectural style and historical significance of the courthouse.

County governments will determine the scope and scale of the restoration projects, Fraser said. Grants for courthouse projects may not exceed $4 million, or 2 percent of the amount appropriated by the Texas Legislature for the program.

Fraser noted that in June 1998, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added 225 historic courthouses -- which are at least 50 years old -- to its annual list of endangered historic places.

"The National Trust concluded that historic Texas courthouses are national treasures threatened by neglect, deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, inappropriate development and insensitive public policy," Fraser said. "This listing affirmed the timeliness of Governor Bush's Texas Courthouse Preservation Initiative and I'm happy to carry the bill in the Senate."